Faith Baptist Church
06-19-22 Dwell Richly Bible Study
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  • History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God. —Hollis Read
    When the fulness of time was come, God sent for his Son. —Paul the Apostle (Galatians 4:4)
    If we think of the doctrine of providence as a jigsaw puzzle, then in our study, mostly of the OT, we have pieced together most of the edge pieces. Much of the middle is beginning to be filled in, and we can make out some of the picture that the puzzle is intended to become.
    But God has saved the crowing works of His providence for the incarnation and ministry of His beloved Son!
    In our next two major studies we will highlight God's activities in relation to the coming and mission of Jesus Christ.
    “God providentially “set the stage” for the entrance of His Son into the world. Nothing was overlooked; no expense was spared. The preparation for this grand drama was not the work of a few weeks or months or years. God’s preparation for the “fullness of time” was literally centuries—indeed, millennia—in the making. This divine casting and staging encompassed social, political, religious, and even philosophical elements; it ranged from individual to international preparations; and it included both broadly circumstantial and intimately personal issues. Some of these details are explicitly outlined in Scripture. Others are discovered only as we look at the textbook of history.” —Layton Talbert

    I. What Does History Reveal?

    “To the believer the ‘amazing coincidences’ of history are but manifestations of God’s intervention for his omniscient, benevolent purposes.” —Edward Panosian

    A. Providence in Politics

    What was the dominant political empire at the time of Jesus’ birth?
    What other world empires had laid the groundwork for a single, uniting political influence? Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. (c.f. Daniel 2 and 7)
    What kind of time period do these empires cover? Centuries!
    By and large, each empire extended the borders of the previous one and expanded the number of provinces and peoples brought under its influence. Why is this significant?
    The Roman Empire was unprecedented in terms of its size. How long was God preparing this detail? Clearly God had an eye to this throughout the millennium preceding the birth of Christ.
    Not only was the large size of the Roman Empire important, but in conjunction with that was the importance of Pax Romana. What is that?
    The term "Pax Romana," which literally means "Roman peace," refers to the time period from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. in the Roman Empire. This 200-year period saw unprecedented peace and economic prosperity throughout the Empire, which spanned from England in the north to Morocco in the south and Iraq in the east.
    Pax Romana provided the ideal circumstances for what? The spreading of the message of God’s coming into the world!
    Jeremiah 10:6–7 ESV
    6 There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.

    B. Providence in Commerce

    In order to transport troops and transmit information more efficiently, what did the Roman Empire do? They devised an unprecedented system of communication and transportation (Humanly speaking)
    What was the divine implication for this system of communication and transportation? God (through the free choices of men ignorant of Him and His purposes) directed the building of this system in order to facilitate the movement of His armies and ambassadors for the communication His message.
    The Romans constructed a brilliantly engineered network of roads, some of which still survive to this day (don’t you wish they still built roads like that?), which made accessible the farthest reaches of the known and conquered world.
    The Romans also put into place an efficient postal system! How did God providentially use that? Expedited the spread of the revelation of the New Testament!

    C. Providence in Language

    What important enduring legacy did Alexander the Great’s conquest (three centuries before the birth of Christ) leave behind? A single universal language.
    What did the establishment of Greek as the common tongue through the known world do for the message of the gospel? enormously facilitated the widespread and rapid communication of the gospel.
    God’s providence was seen in another way! What language was the OT written in? Who could speak and read that language? limited to one important but very small nation.
    What is the Septuagint? LXX- the translation of God’s Hebrew OT revelation into a universally accessible language— Greek!
    The Septuagint was produced over a period of about a century (250-150 B.C.). It introduced the self-revelation of God to the world at large. It became the Bible of Christ and the apostles, the Bible of the writers of the NT, and the OT of the early church.
    Why was this significant? The Septuagint had, in the providence of God, a great and honorable part to play in preparing the world for the Gospel.
    “It is not too much to say that Greek Judaism with the Septuagint, ploughed the furrows for the gospel seed in the Western world.” Why could someone say that?
    Have you ever tried to witness to someone who knows nothing about the OT? How much ground work do you have to lay before you can effectively share the gospel? Christian missionaries would have found a ready point of contact wherever there had already spread a knowledge off the OT.

    D. Providence in Philosophy

    How did God providentially use philosophy for the sake of the gospel?
    John 1:1 ESV
    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    What is the Greek word for Word in this text? logos
    The word logos already had a philosophical context when John used it in his gospel.
    The Greek concept of logos- used to describe a universal reason or order (as opposed to chaos, chance, and randomness), as an intermediary between God and man, as the world’s reason and orderliness.
    The Jewish concept of logos- The LXX uses the world logos to depict “God’s Word” as both the agent of creation:
    Psalm 33:6 ESV
    6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
    and the controller of creation:
    Psalm 147:15 ESV
    15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
    Psalm 147:17–18 ESV
    17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? 18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
    Philo (ca. 20 B.C.), an Alexandrian Jew influenced by Greek philosophy, synthesized the Greek and Hebrew concepts of logos. He viewed the logos as an intermediary between God and the world and even described it as God’s firstborn son, an ambassador, and advocate, a high priest—even though he apparently had no concept that the coming Messiah would be none other than God in human flesh, and certainly no inkling that this Word would, in fact, appear in his own lifetime.
    In short, God was providentially at work plowing the soil of the philosophical musings of men who did not know Him in order to set the stage for the presentation of His Son as the very expression and communication —the Word—of God Himself.

    II. What Does the Bible Say?

    A. The Timing of Zachariah’s Lot

    Luke 1:9 ESV
    9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
    What do you know about the burning of incense? It was an unusual honor that few priests enjoyed since their duties were assigned by lot.
    “The offering of incense was considered the highest duty and could be exercised only once in a lifetime.”
    What is significant about the timing of Zachariah’s lot? It could have happened earlier in his life and he would have never again had opportunity to perform for that ministry.
    But God providentially waited for the fullness of time before Zachariah was selected.
    What important lesson did we learn about the chance of lots from Esther?
    Why was the timing and location of the angelic announcement to Zachariah so significant? It guaranteed a public announcement and widespread anticipation of the coming of Messiah’s forerunner and, hence, of the coming of Messiah Himself.

    B. The Conception and Birth of John

    Luke 1:5–7 ESV
    5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
    Luke 1:24–25 ESV
    24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
    Luke 1:57–60 ESV
    57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.”
    Luke 1:61–63 ESV
    61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.
    Luke 1:64–66 ESV
    64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
    How long before the angel’s temple appearance to Zachariah do you suppose this godly old couple had given up praying for a child?
    Luke 1:7 ESV
    7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
    What is significant about the end of v. 7? So how many years did they pray for children? And how many years had it been since they had given up praying for children?
    Did their prayers fail? Had God failed to answer their prayer? NO! But, the answer did not come in the timing they had hoped fore or in the way they had anticipated, but it was far beyond all their expectation!
    Anyone know what the name “Zachariah” means? “The Lord remembers” what a happy coincidence right?
    Zachariah may have forgotten the prayers he had offered in his early manhood, but God had not!

    C. Mary and Joseph

    How was the providence of God at work in the personal details of the lives of Mary and Joseph?
    The birth and preservation of both Mary and Joseph.
    The bringing (and keeping) of those two together.
    The providential superintending of their lineage over the preceeding centuries.

    D. The Conception of Jesus

    The timing of this event was crucial. How?
    It came after the betrothal so that it would not disqualify Mary, but before the marriage so that the Child was clearly no Joseph’s.
    Matthew 1:18 ESV
    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
    Think about this- when did God reveal to Mary about the birth of the Messiah? He forewarned her!
    When did God reveal to Joseph about the birth of the Messiah? God permitted Joseph to discover Mary’s pregnancy on his own before explaining it to him. Why? Think about the pain to Joseph! But think also of the pain to poor, pure Mary.
    Why did God do it this way? Imagine the suspicion if BOTH Mary and Joseph had known about the pregnancy before hand! Sooo, you both had a dream that God was sending this child? Right. How convenient!

    E. The Ordering of the Census

    Luke 2:1–6 ESV
    1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
    Why did Jesus need to be born in Bethlehem?
    Micah 5:2 ESV
    2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
    Why didn’t God just tell Joseph and Mary in a dream to go to Bethlehem?
    Dreams and angelic appearance can be fabricated. Think of the suspicion that would naturally arise were Joseph to have claimed that God told him to go to Bethlehem for the birth of this child that supposed to be the Messiah! “Another dream, eh? To go to Bethlehem? My, my wasn’t that a coincidence?)
    God used the free acts of men to providentially move Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem in order to preserve the integrity of the incarnation.

    F. The Birth of Jesus

    Sometimes, God providentially puts in extra details that have nothing to do with the story, but magnify His own creativity and glory!
    Luke 2:6–7 ESV
    6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
    Providentially, there was no room for Mary and Joseph. So Mary was compelled to lay Jesus, the Bread of Life, in a what? Feeding trough, in a town named what? Bethlehem, Which means? “house of bread”

    G. The Shepherds

    John 1:29 ESV
    29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
    Who were the first ones to evangelize this Lamb of God?
    Luke 2:8 ESV
    8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
    What were the flocks used for? May have been destined for sacrificial services in the temple nearby— the very sacrifices Jesus came to fulfill.
    And Jesus Himself became God’s good Shepherd
    John 10:11 ESV
    11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
    Ezekiel 34:22–25 ESV
    22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. 25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.
    Ezekiel 37:24 ESV
    24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.
    H. Simeon and Anna
    Sometimes God’s providence is hidden in the subtlest of details in the text.
    What promise did God make to Simeon? He would see the promised Messiah before he died.
    Luke 2:27 ESV
    27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
    Why was Simeon in the temple at the exact right moment to see Jesus?
    Where do you see God’s providence in Anna’s story?
    Luke 2:38 ESV
    38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
    “at that very hour” chance? luck? providence?

    H. The Magi

    List some of the providential things that happened to them:
    The providential preservation of the knowledge of God’s prophecy in their distant Gentile society
    The appearance of the star at the appropriate place and time
    The fact that the star did not lead them directly to Bethlehem? Why is that important? Public announcement of the event and the citation of the prophecy of Micah in the court of Herod
    The dream warning them not to return to Herod

    I. Herod’s Massacre of the Infants

    What does not happen is at times just as significant as what does happen.
    How determined was Herod to destroy the child? Why didn’t he send spies to follow the Magi? Why did he trust the magi alone to report Jesus’ location? Providence!
    How many prophecies did this cause to be fulfilled? The infants massacre in Bethlehem, and the return from Egypt of Jesus.
    Matthew 2:16 (ESV)
    16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
    Matthew 2:19 (ESV)
    19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
    Matthew 2:20 (ESV)
    20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
    What does this show of God’s providence? God’s control over the wrath of man!

    III. A Look in the Mirror

    What ramifications does God’s providential rule over nations and empires have for modern national and international circumstances?
    What personal lessons and applications can you draw from such examples of God’s providence over the broadest aspects of “secular” society?
    Luke 1:37 ESV
    37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
    Lit. “For with God no saying is impossible.”
    Not a statement of God’s omnipotence (he can do anything).
    Instead, God is fully able to and intent on perforeming every “saying”==every prophecy and promise He has ever uttered.
    If God said it, He can do it and will do it—not matter how improbable it may seem or how impossible it may sound.
    What is the context of Luke 1:37? The biological impossibility of the virgin birth!
    How does Luke 1:37, a statement about God’s trustworthiness, apply to His “sayings” to you in the Bible?
      • Micah 5:2ESV

      • Luke 2:6–7ESV

      • John 1:29ESV

      • Luke 2:8ESV

      • John 10:11ESV

      • Ezekiel 34:22–25ESV

      • Ezekiel 37:24ESV

      • Luke 2:27ESV

      • Luke 2:38ESV

      • Luke 1:37ESV

      • Psalm 2:4–6ESV

      • Matthew 2:13ESV

      • Luke 4:28–30ESV

      • John 5:16ESV

      • John 5:18ESV

      • Mark 3:6ESV

      • Matthew 12:14ESV

      • Luke 6:11ESV

      • John 7:1ESV

      • John 7:19ESV

      • John 7:25ESV

      • John 8:37ESV

      • John 8:40ESV

      • John 8:59ESV

      • John 10:31ESV

      • John 11:8ESV

      • John 8:20ESV

      • John 7:30ESV

      • John 12:23ESV

      • John 12:23ESV

      • John 12:27ESV

      • John 13:1ESV

      • John 17:1ESV

      • Luke 19:47–48ESV

      • Mark 11:18ESV

      • Matthew 21:46ESV

      • Mark 12:12ESV

      • Luke 20:19ESV

      • Matthew 26:1–2ESV

      • Matthew 26:3–5ESV

      • John 19:10ESV

      • John 19:11ESV

      • Isaiah 53:9ESV

      • Matthew 27:57–60ESV

      • Matthew 16:16ESV

      • Matthew 16:17ESV

      • Mark 8:31–32ESV

      • Mark 8:33ESV

      • Luke 22:3–6ESV

      • John 13:27ESV

      • James 4:7ESV

      • Luke 22:31ESV

      • Luke 22:32ESV

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